Australian Open: Womens' Final – Azarenka defends title amidst drama
By Ros Satar
Victoria Azarenka def Li Na 4-6 6-4 6-3
Nerves were the initial factor with breaks all round before Li was able to settle into a much more consistent rhythm than the Belarusian, taking the first set 6-4.
If the nerves were not drama enough, the start of the second set saw Azarenka break Li and look a lot more settled, leading 3-0 at the first change of ends.
Li seemed to have settled her nerves, gaining a break, before the first burst of drama.
Half way through the next game, Li’s ankle just buckled sending her crumpling to the ground, with immediate concern from Azarenka and umpire, Alison Lang.
A medical time-out had to be called, and after the initial shock of the fall, it was with some relief to all that Li was able to walk comparatively well to the chair.
The ankle was heavily strapped, and the burst of adrenalin really swept Li to a sense of focus as she held the game.
On the other side of the net, Azarenka had to move Li about to try and judge the injury, and managed to keep herself ahead.
Li managed to get herself on level terms to 4-4 but perhaps not surprisingly her concentration seemed to be dipping in and out and Azarenka broke and held to take the second set.
There was more drama to come.
Azarenka started the better of the two, continuing with the momentum that levelled the match and it looked as though the tide had turned.
But Li broke back, and consolidated with a hold as the match paused for the Australia Day fireworks for around 10 minutes.
No-one could have predicted what would happen next.
On the first point at the resumption, Li not only rolled over the same injured left ankle, but hit the deck with enough force to smack her head down hard on the court.
This time, it looked a lot more serious, and despite smiling as the doctor carried out a basic concussion test, the treatment focussed on her head and neck, and for a time it looked like the match may be called.
There were rousing cheers, as she donned her visor, and carried on with the match, as Twitter exploded with predictable chatter about the validity (or otherwise) of the medical time out system.
Not surprisingly, Li was broken in her next service game, but managed to hold the next, and won herself a lot of respect for trying to stay in contention, but the end was in sight now.
Serving to stay in the match and taken to deuce, it just took one match point and an unforced error sailing long for Azarenka to defend her title, and her number one ranking.
Azarenka had dialled back a lot of her trademark feisty-ness, but it all flooded out, as she sat sobbing into her towel before going over to her team.
The crowd had been hostile at times towards her during the match, and she had done well not to rise to the bait, and they justly applauded their champion.
At times it was a tortuous affair, certainly not devoid of drama, and indeed real fireworks, but it was good to see a three set Slam final again on the women’s side.